Category Archives: Consumer healthcare

The English patent: Holloway’s Pills

How did Holloway’s Pills and Ointment became the highest-selling medicines in the world?

Thomas Holloway establishes his patent medicine business
Thomas Holloway (1800 – 1883) was born at Devonport, the son of a baker. He was apprenticed to a chemist.

Thomas Holloway (1800 – 1883)

Holloway relocated to London from 1828. He established himself as a merchant on Liverpool Street from 1836. One client was a Felix Albinolo (1785 – 1872), the proprietor of Albinolo’s ointment, a patent medicine. The success of Albinolo’s product inspired Holloway to introduce an equivalent.

Holloway’s Family Ointment was introduced from 1837. Holloway’s Pills, a mild laxative, were launched two years later. Holloway was the first person to advertise medicines on a massive scale, and it was this that would cement the success of his products.

George E Barclay was granted the sole licence to manufacture the pills and ointment in the United States. Between 1857 and 1858 his sales totalled $250,000.

Holloway’s Pills and Ointment claimed the largest sales of any medicine in the world by 1862.

Thomas Holloway became a very wealthy man. He retired in 1873 and, as he was without issue, appointed his brother-in-law, Henry Driver (1830 – 1909) as manager of his business.

Thomas Holloway dedicated much of the rest of his life to charitable ventures; he established the Holloway Sanatorium at Virginia Water, Surrey at a cost of £250,000 in 1873. He later went on to found the Holloway College at a cost of £350,000.

Holloway College in 2015

Death of the founder and gradual decline of the business
Thomas Holloway died with an estate valued at £550,000 in 1883.

Sole control of the Thomas Holloway business was assumed by Henry Driver, who added the Holloway name to his own to become Henry Driver Holloway.

An analysis of Holloway’s Pills conducted for the British Medical Journal in 1903 found the product to consist of aloes, rhubarb, saffron, sodium sulphate decahydrate and pepper. The pills would have likely had a laxative effect. Holloway’s ointment was found to consist of turpentine, resin, olive oil, lard, wax and spermaceti.

Holloway’s Pills was registered as a company in 1929, with a modest capital of £5,000. Holloway’s Pills had lost considerable market share to Beecham’s Pills, whilst falling prey to an increased scepticism among the public regarding patent medicines.

Holloway’s Pills was acquired by Yeast-Vite Ltd, which itself came under the control of the Beecham Group in 1931.

Production of Holloway’s Pills and Ointment ended in 1951.

Andrews Liver Salts

Andrews Liver Salts became the highest-selling antacid product in the world.

Scott & Turner introduce Andrews Liver Salts
William Henry Scott (1860 – 1922) and William Murdoch Turner (1862 – 1932) were proprietors of a successful wholesale margarine business based at Gallowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England.

W H Scott was a prominent Wesleyan Methodist. He was a well-liked man, and was held in a high regard by his workforce.

Scott & Turner began to manufacture Andrews Liver Salts, an antacid and stomach reliever, from 1895. The product was named after their office, located at St Andrew’s Buildings.

W M Turner entered into retirement from 1907. Andrews Liver Salts had an annual sale of over two million tins by this time.

Sales of Andrews Liver Salts continued to grow, and the Gallowgate works were repeatedly expanded to accommodate increased production.

Scott & Turner advertised Andrews Liver Salts as the highest-selling antacid in Britain by 1922. Around 300 people were employed by this time.

W H Scott continued to act as chairman of Scott & Turner until his death in 1922.

Sterling Drug acquires Scott & Turner
Scott & Turner was acquired by Sterling Drug of the United States in 1923.

Andrews Liver Salts were introduced to the Canadian market from 1924.

Andrews Liver Salts were advertised as the highest-selling antacid in the world from 1926.

Scott & Turner was acquired by Drug Inc of the United States in 1929.

A new gas-powered factory was established in 1934. A total of 350 to 450 people were employed.

Staff hours were reduced to five days a week, with no reduction in pay from 1935.

There were around 500 employees by 1944.

A new factory at Fawdon, Newcastle was opened in 1949 in order to meet rapidly growing demand overseas for Liver Salts. 27 percent of Liver Salt production was exported. The Gallowgate site was divested.

Export sales of Liver Salts ran at about £1 million a year by 1952.

Scott & Turner rebuilt the Fawdon site in 1956. The new factory was thoroughly modern, with utmost standards of cleanliness and high levels of automation.

Sterling Drug merged Scott & Turner with another subsidiary, Charles H Phillips Chemical Co, manufacturers of Milk of Magnesia, to form Phillips, Scott & Turner in 1960. The head office was at Acton Vale, London, and the northern sales office was based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Andrews was the clear market leader in stomach remedies in Britain as late as 1978. A television campaign featuring the Pink Panther cartoon character boosted sales by 40 percent in 1986.

Andrews Liver Salts contained sodium bicarbonate, citric acid and magnesium sulphate as of 1993.

Recent ownership and closure of the Fawdon site
Sterling Healthcare was acquired by SmithKline Beecham in 1994.

About 700 people were employed at the Fawdon plant in 1994.

SmithKline Beecham merged with GlaxoWellcome to form GlaxoSmithKline in 2000.

The Fawdon site was closed in 2015. Manufacturing of Andrews Liver Salts was transferred to Spain.

Andrews Liver Salts was the fifth highest-selling indigestion remedy in Britain in 2017, behind Gaviscon, Rennie, Nexium and Zantac.

Life’s a bleach: a history of Domestos

How did Domestos become the leading brand of bleach in Britain?

W A Handley establishes the Domestos business
Wilfred Augustine Handley (1901 -1975), was the son of a blacksmith employed in the Tyneside shipbuilding industry.

W A Handley trained as a dental mechanic. As a side project, he manufactured chemicals in his garden shed. He acquired sodium hypochlorite, a waste product from the local chemical industries, including ICI Billingham, and manufactured a powerful disinfectant and sterilizer, which he called “Domestos”.

W A Handley established his “Hygienic Disinfectant Service” in 1929. Assisted by his wife Ivy, he established door-to-door sales of Domestos.

Domestos was incorporated as a private company in 1936. A factory was established at Albion Row in Byker.

Stergene, designed for washing woollens, was introduced in 1948.

Domestos enjoyed distribution across Britain by 1952.

Sqezy, the first washing-up liquid in squeezable bottles, was launched in 1957.

W A Handley placed Domestos into a shell company which was valued at £250,000 in 1957.

Unilever era
W A Handley required expansion capital, and the business was sold to Unilever for £2.5 million in 1961. Unilever lacked a bleach brand of its own, and was attracted to the strong growth at the company. Unilever provided managerial expertise. Handley was retained in a managerial capacity, but stepped down as chairman in 1962.

The Domestos blue plastic bottle was introduced from 1963.

The Domestos marketing and sales departments had been transferred to London by 1965.

Domestos employed 700 people by 1965.

Domestos sales continued to grow, but the Newcastle factory lacked space to expand. As a result, production of Domestos detergents including Sqezy and Stergene were transferred to the Unilever factory at Port Sunlight, Merseyside, from 1965. The customer service office was relocated to London.

Domestos held a third of the British bleach market by 1968.

Handley died in 1975 and left an estate valued at £172,786.

The Domestos factory in Newcastle upon Tyne was closed with the loss of 160 jobs in 1975, and operations were relocated to Port Sunlight.

Domestos was sold throughout Europe by the end of the 1970s. It was introduced to Australia from 1981.

Domestos enjoyed ten percent growth globally in 2017, and is a leading product in the Unilever Home Care division. It is sold in 35 countries, sometimes under different brand names, such as Domex (India and the Philippines), Glorix (Netherlands), Vim (Vietnam, Argentina and Brazil), Promax and Klinex (Greece).

A capsulated history of Beecham

How did Beecham’s become the largest patent medicine manufacturer in the world?

Thomas Beecham
Thomas Beecham (1820 – 1907) was born to humble circumstances in Oxfordshire. He worked as a shepherd and used his knowledge of herbs to tend his animals.

A coarse yet charismatic character, Beecham began to manufacture pills from 1847. Beecham’s Pills, comprised of aloes, ginger and soap, had a mild laxative effect. The pills were more palatable than the traditional home remedies of the day, such as rhubarb and Epsom salts.

Beecham relocated to the booming mill towns of the North West of England. He sold his pills from a market stall in Wigan, Lancashire. He relocated to nearby St Helens from 1859.

The business was run by the family and a small number of employees until the late 1870s.

Joseph Beecham
Joseph Beecham (1848 – 1916) had effectively taken control of his father’s business by the 1880s. Joseph Beecham was described as “[i]n personal appearance … the quiet, pipe-smoking, tweed-clad type of Englishman. He has neither business nor artistic pose, and is modesty itself.”

Beecham pills held the highest sale of any patent medicine in the world by 1885. A new electric-powered factory was opened in St Helens in 1886.

250 million pills were sold in 1890, a quarter of all factory-made pills in Britain.

A factory was leased in Brooklyn, New York in order to manufacture Beecham pills for the American market from 1890.

Thomas Beecham handed over full control of the business to Joseph Beecham in 1895.

Joseph Beecham spent £100,000 a year on advertising by 1895. The factory had 120 employees, all men.

After it was discovered that he was engaged in adultery, Joseph Beecham was divorced by his wife in 1901.

Joseph Beecham had an annual income of £20,000 by 1903.

Small quantities of morphine were present in the pills from 1905 onwards.

American sales doubled between 1906 and 1913. A new factory in Brooklyn was purchased in 1910. Joseph Beecham made frequent trips across the Atlantic to attend to his American business.

The New York Times reported that Joseph Beecham was the third richest man in England by 1909, with a fortune valued at US$130 million. Joseph Beecham was knighted in 1912, in recognition of his philanthropic work.

Beecham spent US$5 million on advertising between 1903 and 1913, and was one of the most extensive newspaper advertisers in the world.

Over 450 million Beecham pills were sold worldwide in 1913. The annual advertising budget was $5 million.

A total of 10,000 million pills had been sold by 1914.

Before his death, Sir Joseph Beecham handed the American business to his son, Henry Beecham (1888 – 1947).

Sir Joseph Beecham died in 1916, and had an estate valued at £1.5 million. The British business was passed to his two sons, Henry Beecham and Thomas Beecham (1879 – 1961).

Henry Beecham sold his entire interest in Beecham’s Pills to James White (1877 – 1927) in 1919.

Henry Beecham was convicted of manslaughter in 1921 after speeding in his car. He was sentenced to twelve months in prison.

Philip Hill and public offering
Philip Ernest Hill (1873 – 1944) acquired the business, largely from Thomas Beecham, for £2.8 million in 1924.

Hill was a skilled entrepreneur, and established a new laboratory. The company’s first pharmaceutical product, an aspirin-based cold and flu powder, was introduced in 1926.

The Veno Drug Company of Manchester, a manufacturer of cough syrup, was acquired in 1928.

Beecham’s Pills was incorporated as a public company in 1928.

Yeast-Vite, including Holloway’s Pills, was acquired in 1931.

1938 saw three major acquisitions: Macleans, a toothpaste manufacturer was purchased for over £2 million; Lucozade, a medicinal drink, was acquired for around £10,000, and Eno Proprietaries, best known for its Fruit Salts product, was acquired. Eno provided Beecham with an international distribution network.

County Perfumery, the manufacturer of Brylcreem, was acquired for £600,000 in 1939.

20th century continued growth
Following the death of Philip Hill in 1944, Stanley Holmes (1878 – 1961) became company chairman.

C&E Morton, best known for the Murraymints confectionery brand, was acquired for £180,000 in 1945.

A single product, Lucozade, provided one third of Beecham’s British profits in 1949.

Henry Lazell (1903 – 1982) was appointed managing director of Beecham in 1951. He was to become the driving force behind the subsequent growth of the business, with a strong commitment to marketing and research and development.

The American market began to be targeted in earnest, led by Brylcreem.

H W Carter, the manufacturer of Ribena, was acquired in 1955.

Thomas & Evans, probably the largest volume producer of soft drinks in Britain, and best known for the Corona brand, was acquired in 1958.

North American sales dwarfed British sales by 1958, largely driven by the success of Brylcreem, where it was the market leader in men’s hair products.

Beecham was the second largest advertiser in Britain by 1960.

Macleans began to be promoted in the United States from 1960. It held fourth place in the toothpaste market by 1964.

Lazell retired as managing director in 1968.

Horlicks was acquired for £14 million in 1969.

Beecham employed around 23,000 people by 1972.

Beecham was the eleventh most highly-valued public company in Europe by 1982.

Beecham merged with SmithKline Beckman to create the second largest pharmaceuticals group in the world in 1989.

SmithKline Beecham was the 43rd largest company in the world, as measured by market value, in 1992.

Brylcreem was sold to Sara Lee in 1993.

The Beecham factory in St Helens was closed with the loss of 480 jobs in 1994. The production of Beecham’s Pills was ended in 1998, with the manufacturer suggesting that Milk of Magnesia be used as a substitute.

Block Drug of the US, best known for the Sensodyne toothpaste brand, was acquired for £850 million in 2000. SmithKline Beecham became the second largest toothpaste manufacturer in the world.

Title image used courtesy of the Science Museum, London.

A digested history of Eno’s Fruit Salts

How did Eno’s Fruit Salts became one of the best known branded medicines in the world?

J C Eno introduces Fruit Salts
James Crossley Eno (1827 – 1915) had established a small chemist’s shop at 5 Groat Market in Newcastle upon Tyne by 1851. He introduced Eno’s Fruit Salts, an indigestion remedy, from 1868. It became popular among sailors, who helped to establish the reputation of the product overseas.

A 1924 advertisement

Eno soon found himself unable to meet increasing demand for his product, and he relocated his business to a factory on New Cross Road, London, from 1876. The business employed 50 people by 1884.

J C Eno was established as a limited company with a capital of £100,000 from 1891.

Eno’s Fruit Salts consisted of sodium bicarbonate, tartaric acid and citric acid, according to an analysis for the British Medical Journal in 1903.

Eno entered into retirement from around 1904. He was succeeded as company chairman by his son in law, Commander Harold W Swithinbank (1858 – 1928).

Harold F Ritchie (1881 – 1933) of Toronto was the Canadian sales agent from 1907. Ritchie characterised the J C Eno business as tradition-bound and staid. He promised to forfeit his commission if he failed to double Canadian sales within one year; instead he quadrupled volumes. TIME magazine characterised Ritchie as the “world’s greatest salesman”.

Harold F Ritchie (1881 – 1933)

James Eno died in 1915. He left a gross estate valued at £1.6 million.

J C Eno company capital had been increased to £650,000 by 1920.

The Eno business is sold to Harold F Ritchie
Following the death of Commander Swithinbank, the business was sold to Harold F Ritchie for over £1.5 million in 1928. Ritchie received the first option to acquire the business in recognition of his service to the company.

Ritchie maintained existing management. Between 1928 and 1932 he established factories in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, South Africa and Germany.

Ritchie died in 1933. His widow sold control of the company to the London & Yorkshire Trust for over £1 million in 1934.

Shares in Eno Proprietaries Limited were offered to the public. The business had a capitalisation of £3.25 million.

Eno’s Fruit Salts had become one of the best known proprietary medicines in the world. The product was sold in 83 countries. It was advertised in 73 countries with 26 different languages. The principal factory was in London, but there were two large factories in North America, and nine smaller factories across the rest of the world.

Beecham acquires the business
Eno Proprietaries was acquired by Beecham for just over £1 million in 1938. Beecham was attracted to the strong export trade of the business.

The New Cross factory was completely destroyed by Germany bombing during the Blitz in 1940. Production was transferred to the Macleans toothpaste factory in Brentford. Fruit Salt production was relocated to a site at Watford from 1946. The Watford site was closed in 1953, and production was returned to Macleans.

Eno’s Fruit Salts had been rebranded as simply “Eno” by the 1980s. It continued as a major Beecham product line.

Beecham was merged with SmithKline Beckman to form SmithKline Beecham in 1989. It amalgamated with GlaxoWellcome to create GlaxoSmithKline in 2000.

Eno is still widely sold across the world as an antacid for the relief of indigestion. It is the leading over the counter heartburn treatment in India and Brazil.